Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said “the fiscal arithmetic” of the Budget for 2018-’19 could be incorrect. “I don’t think I can blame the Budget for being motivated by scoring points in elections, but fiscal arithmetic is at fault,” he told The Indian Express. “This Budget is high on projecting a bright picture, but how will that be sustained [by the underlying fiscal arithmetic]?”
Singh’s was one of the many reactions to the Budget Jaitley presented in Parliament on Thursday.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said even after four years at the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party was “still promising farmers a fair price”, still announcing “fancy schemes with no matching budgets” and had still not created jobs for the youth. He ended his tweet saying, “Thankfully, only one more year to go.”
Secretary General of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yechury said, “The Modi government’s last full Budget is a textbook exercise in post-truth: Unconnected to ground realities.” He also criticised the decision to raise the minimum support price of crops by 1.5 times, claiming it was moved aimed at drawing votes in the upcoming elections in eight states.
The Telugu Desam Party, an ally of the BJP at the Centre, is disappointed with the Budget. YS Chowdary, the minister of state for science and technology, said the Budget did not address some concerns such as the funding to build Amravati, the Capital of Andhra Pradesh.
Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant told PTI that this is “a Budget for the elections”. “Hence, the focus has been shifted from industries to farmers, healthcare and education,” he said. He added that the government was forced to take “desperate measures” after the criticism it faced because of the Goods and Services Tax, demonetisation, and the results of the Gujarat elections.
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said Jaitley had failed the fiscal consolidation test. “This failure will have serious consequences,” the Congress leader added. He said that the stress in the farm sector would continue, and called the health care scheme a “big jumla [gimmick]”.
“There is nothing in the Budget to boost private investment,” Chidambaram added. “There is no relief to the average tax payer. Is the finance minister serious?” The former finance minister claimed that there were no measures in the Budget to boost exports, as the government had “run out of ideas”.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Deputy Manish Sisodia, too, expressed disappointment. “I had expected some financial assistance to important infrastructure projects for the national Capital,” Kejriwal said. “Disappointed that the Centre continues its step-motherly treatment of Delhi.” Sisodia pointed out that the Budget did not include plans to tackle crimes against women in Delhi.
On the “disappointing Budget 2018”, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said there was “nothing for the aam aadmi, no tax [relief] for the middle class, no incentives to create jobs, no investment stimulus”.
Congress Spokesperson Manish Tewari said that with Budget 2018, the government had attempted to “pay lip service to farmers and to other marginalised sections of society”, but that it was a “classical case of ‘too less’”.
Randeep S Surjewala, another Congress spokesperson, accused the government of making a mockery of farmers with its so-called initiatives. “UPA agriculture growth: 4.2%, in NDA 1.9%,” he said on Twitter. “Modiji, at this pace, the incomes of farmers will double only by 2052. Why are you playing this cruel joke with farmers?”
Former Prime Minister HD Dewe Gowda acknowledged that the finance minister had tried to introduce measures for farmers, but he said they made not be enough. “The problems of farmers and rural people are enormous,” he said. “The measures may not be sufficient.”
Leaders and ministers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party praised the Budget:
- Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari called the Budget “historic”, referring to the medical insurance scheme that aims to reach 10 crore families.
- BJP National President Amit Shah said there were a lot of schemes in the Budget for farmers, the poor, Dalits and adivasis. “The Budget is in the spirit of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’”.
- Smriti Irani, minister of textiles and information and broadcasting, on Twittersaid the Budget focused on “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” and “gives impetus to the ‘ease of living’ of citizens”.
- Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Budget 2018 “envisions a paradigm shift in economic priorities” and will help bridge “the gap between rural and urban areas of our country”.
- Railway Minister Piyush Goyal defended the Budget’s announcements on the fiscal deficit and said the Congress had allowed the fiscal deficit to widen from 2.9% to over 5% of the GDP in the same year [before the 2009 elections]. “If that is fiscal prudence, we will have to revisit the definition of fiscal prudence in India,” he told ANI.
- Union minister Ananth Kumar called it a “transformational Budget” that will “bring about a positive change in everyone’s lives”.
- Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said the Budget kept people of all segments in mind and focused on “ease of living”.
- Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar “congratulated” the government for the Budget and called the health protection scheme a “huge initiative”.
- Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath also congratulated Jaitley and Prime Minster Narendra Modi, saying the Budget has excellent schemes for the poor, rural sector, farmers and senior citizens.